The conceptualization of the “field” in early Soviet ethnography
had its own dynamics and elaborations within the discursive
arenas of the Leningrad ethnographic school. Beginning with the
prehistory of the idea of the field among the Enlightenment naturalists
and travelers, we turn toward a description of long-term expeditions
of the first generation of Soviet ethnographers of the North.
Comparing field diaries, photographs, questionnaires, lectures, and
textbooks, we consider the patterns and flexibility in the concept
of the field in the first half of the twentieth century. We conclude
with a discussion of how post–World War II Soviet anthropologists
departed from the ideas of participant observation and long-term
fieldworking prominent in earlier conceptualizations of fieldwork
in Soviet ethnography.
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